Four Card Games We Love

  by Andrew Wolgemuth

We love board games, but the game boxes in the closet are complemented by some great card games in the drawer. Here are four of our favorites, progressing from simplest to a bit more complicated.

Sleeping Queens says it’s for eight-year-olds and up, but our five-year-year-old picked it up quickly and plays it well. For the most part, it’s a “luck game” (our household phrase for games where the outcome is mostly decided by the luck of the draw), but there’s simple thrill in “waking” a high pointed sleeping queen, there’s a bit of action (playing negative cards on other players, blocking negative cards other players play on you), and some simple math (discarding numbered cards in pairs or when the numbers on two cards equal the number on a third) that keeps the gameplay varied and interesting. Most of our games finish with one of the players yelling, “One more game!” Always a good sign.

Skip Bo says that it’s for seven and up and — at its core — the key skill needed to play is simply being able to count…so maybe it’s a touch simpler than Sleeping Queens to learn to play. I would contend, though, that there’s more to keep track of and think through strategy-wise; thoughtful gameplay requires a bit more skill than Sleeping Queens. Regardless, we’ve found a wide range of kids enjoy playing this game. The goal is straightforward (play all the cards in your Skip Bo pile), play moves fairly quickly, counting skills are improved via gameplay, and there’s enough luck involved that everyone wins eventually.

Phase Ten also describes itself as a game for seven and up, but I think it’s more complicated than the two above because the game’s various hands (the ten “phases”) are each different. It’s about collecting and playing sets (three+ of a kind), runs (4+ cards in numerical order), and cards of one color in some combination. The basic game notes some variations to gameplay (such as allowing players to select when phase they’re working on each hand) so different skill levels can find challenge. And for the times when ten phases are a few too many, Phase Five (or whatever) works just fine.

Monopoly Deal – I enjoy traditional Monopoly…but it takes forever. My kids enjoy Junior Monopoly…but it too has the potential to go on and on and on (Dad often finds ways to diminish his bank account/restrict his income so as to hustle things along). Consequently, I was skeptical about the idea of a card game version of the classic board game…but this game is great. It has many of the familiar Monopoly elements (cards that represent the various properties, for example), but the aim is much simpler than “Bankrupt your opponents.” All you have to do is collect three “monopolies” (that is, sets of one color/type of card). Games take 15ish minutes (depending on how many people you have playing), and a variety of different strategies can be employed to achieve the three monopoly goal. Each game is a little different, and at no point are you trying to figure out the repayment amount for a mortgaged property inherited from a bankrupt opponent.

Regardless of the card game, a simple playing card holder can be a huge help for little hands.

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Hopefully some of our favorites can become favorites for your family too.